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Placing the planet first: why we still got it all wrong

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By Susana Gago

· 5 min read

In the grand scheme of things, human civilization is just a fleeting moment in the vast expanse of time. Yet, in our relatively short existence on this planet, we have managed to shape the world in profound ways, often prioritizing our own desires for profit and comfort over the health of the planet itself. As we stand on the precipice of an environmental crisis, it's time to ask a critical question: Have we gotten our priorities all wrong? Should we be placing the planet first, even before people and profit?

Where does the planet stand?

The prevailing ethos of our time, driven by capitalism and consumerism, has fostered an attitude that prioritizes short-term gains and individual interests over the long-term well-being of the planet. This has led to a series of interconnected environmental problems, from climate change and biodiversity loss to pollution and resource depletion. The consequences of this shortsighted approach are becoming increasingly evident, and it's high time we reevaluate our priorities.

Profit and progress, while important, must be reexamined in the context of a sustainable and harmonious relationship with the planet. Placing the planet first does not mean forsaking human well-being or economic prosperity, but rather recognizing that these goals are intrinsically tied to the health of our planet.

We are entirely dependent on the planet for our survival. Every aspect of our lives, from the air we breathe and the water we drink to the food we eat and the climate we inhabit, is intricately connected to the Earth's natural systems. Our well-being and economic prosperity are fundamentally linked to the health of the planet.

The consequences of environmental degradation disproportionately affect the most vulnerable among us. Climate change leads to more frequent and severe natural disasters, which often devastate communities with fewer resources to adapt and recover. Pollution and habitat destruction can lead to health problems, particularly in marginalized communities living in proximity to polluting industries.

The pursuit of short-term profits has often come at the expense of long-term sustainability. Companies and governments have prioritized immediate gains, leading to overexploitation of natural resources, deforestation, and the release of greenhouse gases. The costs of these actions are now evident in the form of climate change, species extinction, and resource scarcity.

Biodiversity is not just a luxury; it is a critical aspect of a healthy planet. Ecosystems with high biodiversity are more resilient to disturbances, provide essential ecosystem services like pollination and water purification, and offer potential sources for medicines and food security. We must recognize the intrinsic value of biodiversity beyond its utility to humans.

Humanity has been living beyond its means, consuming natural resources faster than the Earth can regenerate them. This ecological debt is unsustainable and threatens the future of our planet. To repay this debt, we must shift our priorities toward sustainability, conservation, and responsible resource management.

The web of life on Earth is complex and interconnected. Disrupting one part of this web can have cascading effects throughout ecosystems, affecting both people and the planet. Recognizing and respecting these interdependencies is essential for maintaining ecological balance.

There is a moral imperative to protect the planet for future generations and for all species that share this Earth with us. Our responsibility goes beyond our immediate interests, extending to the legacy we leave for our children and the countless species with which we share the planet.

What can we do?

So, how can we shift our priorities and place the planet first?

  1. Grow, as a human-being, rather than human-doing. We won’t find external solutions for inner scarcity.
  2. Embrace regenerative agriculture, sustainable practices, and responsible resource management. Encourage businesses to adopt eco-friendly practices and reduce their environmental footprint.
  3. Support policies that prioritize environmental conservation, promote renewable energy, and discourage harmful practices like deforestation and overfishing. Advocate for international agreements to address global environmental issues.
  4. Spread awareness about the importance of environmental conservation and sustainable living. Education is a powerful tool for inspiring individuals and communities to take action.
  5. Embrace a culture of mindful consumption. Reduce waste, recycle, and make conscious choices about the products you buy. Consider the environmental impact of your choices.
  6. Contribute to or volunteer with organizations dedicated to protecting the environment and conserving biodiversity. These efforts play a crucial role in safeguarding our planet's future.
  7. Support political candidates who prioritize environmental issues and hold leaders accountable for their environmental policies. Use your voting power to advocate for a sustainable future.
  8. Reconnect with the natural world by spending time outdoors and developing a deeper appreciation for the beauty and importance of our planet. This connection can inspire a stronger commitment to conservation.

Environmental challenges are global in scope, and addressing them requires international cooperation. Collaborate with individuals and organizations worldwide to find solutions to pressing environmental issues.

Placing the planet first does not mean abandoning human well-being or economic progress; rather, it calls for a more balanced and sustainable approach that recognizes our interconnectedness with the natural world. By reevaluating our priorities and taking meaningful action to protect the planet, we can build a future where both people and the planet thrive. The time to act is now, for the sake of our shared home and all the life it sustains.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Susana Gago is the founder of UNAKTI, a female-led ecosystem dedicated to cultivating high-value medicinal and aromatic plants, and transforming them into pure raw materials for the Cosmetic, Health & Wellness industries. As part of her job at UNAKTI, she collaborates with local women farmers and communities, empowering them through regenerative medicinal forest cultivation to step up into leadership roles within their families and communities. 

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